Initial Impressions of China: A Health Perspective

My initial impressions of China come from casual observation as a visitor and some conversations with Chinese professors. We are mainly in large cities, so the volume of people and cars is striking. Riding the subway and light rail in Beijing and Dalian, as in other big cities around the world, means close personal contact with strangers in enclosed spaces – as a public health professional I immediately think how easily airborne diseases could spread. When I hear the overwhelming number of cars being added to the streets everyday, I think of the alternative to mass transportation and air quality. A relatively few people wear face masks walking down the street.

In both cities I see green parks where people actually gather to play cards, badminton, sing as a group, dance, or just stroll and socialize. This seems to be good for the body and the soul. In these parks, the issue of an aging population is very clear, but in a positive way.

I am eating more vegetables, but too many dumplings! The “small plate” dietary concept is fully implemented – the dinner plates are smaller than coffee saucers. The bad news is 10-15 delicious dishes keep circulating on a huge lazy
Susan – I keep filling up my little plate and have no idea how much I have eaten!

Smoking is illegal in public places but rarely enforced according to one of our hosts. We see ashtrays on the restaurant tables, but most smokers go outside.

One last note – as tourists, we are doing a lot of walking -that’s a good thing.

Georgeen Polyak, PhD

Public Health Department Chair



1 Response to “Initial Impressions of China: A Health Perspective”

  1. 1 Martin Tracey
    May 21, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    I am struck by your point about the number and size of plates. Makes me wonder how Chinese and Americans measure up in respect of various health indicators, including body weight. There was a story in the NY Times this week about how immigrants to the United States who have been here for a time tend to acquire the same health problems that typically afflict us. Perhaps as the Chinese lifestyle, at least in cities, comes to resemble the U.S. lifestyle more, Chinese public health with resemble U.S. public health more too.

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